LOS ANGELES -- Encouraging children to ask questions and normalizing their activities as quickly as possible are two ways to help them cope with shocking events such as the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a UCLA psychiatry professor said today.

Children should also be encouraged to express their emotions, Emanuel Maidenberg, an associate clinical psychiatry professor at the UCLA Semel Institute told City News Service. He said they should be taught that any emotional reaction is acceptable, and should be helped to define what those emotions are.

"When emotions are put into words, they're less likely to percolate," he said.

Dr. Moe Gelbart, executive director of the Thelma McMillen Center at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, added that parents should be "truthful, but age-appropriate truthful."

He recommended "reflective listening," especially when dealing with very young children. Instead of asking the child what he or she is feeling, Gelbart recommended anticipating the child's emotions and verbalizing those feelings. He said parents of young children shouldn't address the subject unless the child mentions it.

The younger the child, the more important it is to provide a sense of security, according to Gelbart.

He also said hugging your children and telling them you love them is good advice.

Maidenberg said providing accurate information to children when it becomes available is important.


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He also stressed that parents should maintain a normal schedule of activities for children in the days immediately following an event such as the shooting.

In the longer term, he encouraged monitoring children, since every child has his or her own pace; and if there are signs of behavioral changes, he suggested consulting a professional.

Adults and children react "with confusion and the urge to escape" when confronted with events such as the shooting in Connecticut, according to Maidenberg.